The first play of the Halloween season is Theatre in the Park's super rendition of a play by Alex Goldberg titled simply It Is Done. This is a swift and deadly little event that happens in the middle of nowhere, "98 miles west of the interstate," in a little dive bar that nobody frequents anymore. It is a deliciously fun little show, running a scant 85 minutes without intermission, and it packs a truly satisfying punch. Directed by Ira David Wood III, and featuring only three characters, the play goes from interesting to deadly in only a few minutes, and we got hooked in right away.
Wood has pit two veteran actors against a delightful fresh face to concoct this little gem, with excellent results. Some very interesting technical wizardry is needed to carry this off, but the results are absolutely first-rate. I don't want to tell you too much because it will spoil the surprise, but if you like the scary sort of Halloween play that gets under your skin, then this is the play for you.
Hank (D. Anthony Pender) owns a bar way out of the way, somewhere in central USA. It is completely made of wood; except for a jukebox, there isn't a single piece of metal visible. Rustic paraphernalia hang on the walls, including a first-rate ten-point buck that stares mournfully down on what must have once been a hopping little roadside watering hole. But lately, the place can stay empty for days, which is exactly the way Hank likes it.
Today, there is a howling wind storm blowing outside, the kind that blows up dust for miles, making any attempt at driving impossible. This is what brings in Jonas (Jock Brocki), a traveler who has stopped because visibility is zero, and this is the only place with a light on anywhere in the vicinity. Hank is a friendly old sort, but he can get on a man's nerves if you let him. Jonas orders a tequila sunrise, but Hank tells him they're completely out of tequila, so Jonas falls back on his stand-by, "Jack on the rocks." He then tries to hide in a corner of the bar to wait out the storm, but Hank is a gregarious sort and can't seem to leave him be. Finally, Jonas lays down the law, and Hank, always agreeable, leaves Jonas to his cups and disappears out back.
Jonas is just beginning to relax when the door suddenly opens and lets in a pretty little thing, wrapped up against the storm and carrying a whoppingly large tote bag. She tells Hank her car has broken down and she needs to call a tow. Ruby (Olivia Fitts) is a thoroughly modern sort, dressed in high fashion and with an unruly mop of curls piled up on the side of her head. She can get no bars on her cell phone, and asks to use Hank's land line, but Hank, in a fit of temper, has ripped the phone out to keep his ex from hassling him. Ruby bums a quarter to use the – absolutely authentic -- and archaic -- pay phone, and gets the help on the line, only to learn, to her disgust, that help will be a long time coming. She orders up a drink – seems she is also fond of Mr. Daniels' brew – and sizes up her companions.
What we get is three very identifiable characters who cannot seem to mesh: the happy old bar man, the silent man with a past, and the svelte seductress. But Goldberg takes this tired old triad and stirs the pot a bit; things don't turn out the way anyone, particularly Jonas, can predict.
Wood has paced this show exactly right. Things keep moving, and we can't get bored; there's no time. Before we know it, Ruby has Jonas exactly where she wants him, and believe me, it is no place Jonas wants to be.
This trio of veteran actors was exceptionally fine at their interaction. Hank keeps popping in and out, mostly out, because that's how Ruby wants it. From the moment she enters, it is obvious, to us, anyway, that she is in complete control of the action, despite the fact that neither of the guys can see it. Unfortunately, this action is not at all healthy for either one of them.
The whole thing runs to a stunner of a conclusion, leaving us with a very satisfying little bombshell in a short time. On a superbly detailed and realistic set, these three lead us merrily down a very dark path, with a very unique conclusion. Wood has meticulously mapped this out, and these three ensemble actors do a technically flawless and always-interesting dance that leads to a very satisfying, very Halloween conclusion.
Hank, under Pender's control, seemed to be the master of his domain, always jovial – except to his ex – and always sure of himself. This is his castle, after all, and just the way he likes it. Jonas, played masterfully by Brocki, was coiled very tightly, and, of the three, this was the most complex and most difficult of the roles. He is the one with the problem, you see, and Brocki played Jonas on a razor's edge, telling his nightmares, sparring with Ruby, and trying to keep his secrets all at the same time. Ruby, in Fitts' stunning incarnation, played these two off one another delightfully, always in control, and far more skilled at this game of wits than either of her two unsuspecting adversaries.
It Is Done is a delightfully spooky and tremendously entertaining little pack of dynamite, and you will have fun. Wood uses three exceptional actors and a truly interesting premise to give us a very satisfying little explosion of a play, and it would be criminal to miss it.
It Is Done continues through Sunday, October 21. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.